Welcome, World Cup of Hockey

Hockey fans, rejoice. We too can now bask in the fun of having nationalist pride for a beloved and widely broadcasted sporting tournament outside of the Olympics.

Welcome to the World Cup of Hockey.

This is the third installment of the National Hockey League and National Hockey League Players’ Association sanctioned tournament. Previous tournaments happened in 1996 and 2004.

All WCH tournaments have happened in Canada — once in Montreal and now twice in Toronto.

The event is special because unlike the World Ice Hockey tournament and the Olympics, the event is sponsored by the NHL and thus can use all NHL players and play by NHL rules, as opposed to the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation.

The event is happening before the regular NHL season begins, so players will be in good shape and not worn down from the grind of the season.

Teams playing in the event include teams Canada, USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Czech Republic, Europe and team North America.

Team North America consists of players from North America who are 23 years of age and younger, and team Europe consists of star European players whose native countries are not big enough in terms of players to foster their own teams.

Questions to ask

Can anyone dethrone the reigning twice-in-a-row Olympic gold medalists team Canada? Maybe.

Team Canada is without a doubt loaded with star power. From goal-scoring stars Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Ryan Getzlaf, to three of the best netminders in the league, being Corey Crawford, Braden Holtby and Carey Price, Canada is without a doubt loaded with power. Team Canada also beat likely competitors team USA 5-2 in a pre-tournament friendly on Saturday.

Though team North America has talent and young healthy bodies, does it have the leadership and experience needed to compete with more seasoned players? Team North America is the wild card in this tournament. The team does have young guns Nathan MacKinnon and Connor McDavid up front and Anaheim Ducks goalie John Gibson in net.

Can the Finns finally win gold? Team Finland has placed third in the past two Winter Olympics and have only won one gold in the past 10 meetings of the Men’s World Ice Hockey Championships. Though they generally place in the top half of competition, team Finland and Minnesota Wild captain Mikko Koivu takes a piece of Minnesota sports culture back with him and makes it seemingly impossible to win it all. Finnish goalies Pekka Rinne and Tuukka Rask solidify the net and are two of the toughest to put the puck past.

The WCH begins Sept. 17 and will last until Oct. 1 at the latest, pending on how many games are needed. Games in the United States will be broadcast on ESPN and ESPN2.

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